Amid the bracket-busting chaos that has engulfed other regions, two top teams are still standing in the East Region. Top seed Villanova and No. 3 Texas Tech will battle for the East Regional title on Sunday and a spot in the Final Four.
Villanova (33-4) is one game away from reaching the Final Four for the second time in three seasons. The Wildcats survived intense defensive pressure from fifth-seeded West Virginia and pulled away for a 90-78 victory in the Sweet 16. Villanova used an 11-0 second-half run to surge ahead for good and knocked down 13-of-24 3-pointers to overcome 16 turnovers.
Texas Tech (27-9) advanced past the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history. The Red Raiders beat Purdue 78-65 to reach the Elite Eight. They dominated on defense, forcing the Boilermakers to commit 17 turnovers. Texas Tech cashed in 15 points off those turnovers. The Red Raiders held Purdue's offense in check for long stretches. The Boilermakers fell behind before halftime after not scoring over the final 3:43 of the first half.
East Region: No. 3. Texas Tech Red Raiders (27-9) vs. No. 1 Villanova Wildcats (33-4)
Time: 2:20 p.m. ET (Sunday)
Where: TD Garden (Boston)
Keys for Texas Tech
Locking down the perimeter is crucial for the Red Raiders if they hope to reach the Final Four for the first time ever. Teams who let Villanova rain down 3-pointers end up getting carved up by the Wildcats' powerful offense. Villanova leads the nation with 432 made 3-pointers this season. The Wildcats connect on 11.7 3-pointers per game and convert 40.5 percent of their long-range attempts. It's one reason why Villanova has the nation's top scoring offense (87.0 ppg).
Controlling the glass is important for the Red Raiders. Villanova doesn't typically overwhelm opponents on the boards. Texas Tech is typically a little better in this department. The Red Raiders average 4.2 more rebounds per game than their opponents. A few more rebounds can make the difference in counteracting the impact of Omari Spellman and Eric Paschall around the basket. The duo combines for 12.9 rebounds per contest.
Keenan Evans (17.7 ppg) and Justin Gray (15.1 ppg) will need to be in peak form on offense. The Red Raiders need to get stops but it is just as important to be able to match Villanova's firepower when the occasion calls for it. Evans and Gray are Texas Tech's most dependable scorers and have a knack for getting baskets in critical stretches.
Keys for Villanova
What the Wildcats did to survive West Virginia offers a good blueprint for also getting past Texas Tech. Villanova needs to be patient and take care of the ball. The Red Raiders will apply pressure early and often. Texas Tech forces 15.1 turnovers per game, which is the best among the teams still in the NCAA Tournament. The Red Raiders average a +2.7 turnover margin per game.
If Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges are popping on offense, Villanova usually cruises. Each guard is projected as a first-round pick in the upcoming NBA draft for good reason. Brunson (19.3 ppg) is a lethal scorer who made some critical baskets that sparked Villanova's second-half surge past West Virginia. Bridges (18.0 ppg) can knock down the outside basket and pick apart defenders at the rim with equal proficiency. Both are dangerous athletes.
Getting to the free throw line could be a major difference maker. Texas Tech doesn't commit many fouls and it can limit offense for their opponents. Purdue attempted just six free throws against the Red Raiders. Villanova pulled away from West Virginia, in large part, because the Wildcats made themselves at home on the free throw line. They went 23-of-27 from the charity stripe against the Mountaineers.
This is one of the most intriguing Elite Eight games this weekend because it offers such a stark contrast in basketball philosophy. Villanova makes explosive offense its trademark and typically overwhelms other teams with a barrage of outside shots. Texas Tech puts an emphasis on aggressive defense and counts on forcing opponents to beat themselves through a flurry of mistakes. Experience will likely be the deciding factor in this matchup. Villanova has been in this spot before. The Wildcats are in peak form on offense and will give Texas Tech's defense all it can handle for 40 minutes.
Prediction: Villanova 76, Texas Tech 72
— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.
(Top photo courtesy of TexasTech.com)